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Tsaatan Reindeer Herders Tour (Winter)

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Key Information:
Tour Duration: 8 day(s)
Group Size: 2 - 6 people
Destination(s): Mongolia  
Specialty Categories: Cultural Journey  
Season: October - April
Airfare Included: No
Tour Customizable: Yes
Minimum Per Person Price: 1200 US Dollar (USD)
Maximum Per Person Price: 1540 US Dollar (USD)

Overview:

In the far north of Mongolia bordering with Russia lie taiga ecosystems dominated by woods primarily composed of larch trees and open valleys that resemble polar tundra. It is part of the Siberian permafrost ecosystem highly distinct from the steppe grasslands found in much of Mongolia. Due to isolated and inaccessible location the most pristine and unpopulated lands in whole Mongolia lie here. Equally authentic is the culture of the reindeer herders of whom there is just a couple of hundreds living in teepees and grazing their reindeer in taiga forest and on alpine meadows. This is your chance to meet a real shaman, taste reindeer milk and have a reindeer ride.

Itinerary:

Day 1: Arrival to Ulaanbaatar, guided city tour.

Arrival in Ulaanbaatar (UB), the capital of Mongolia and transfer to a centrally located 4 star hotel. Afternoon guided city tour will introduce you to the highlights of the city: the Gandan Temple - city's main Buddhist center, the central city square with a grand statue of Genghis Khan and the Zaisan Memorial, an elevated hill on the city's edge providing a panoramic view of UB. Then choose to visit one or two museums from the following: National Museum introducing Mongolia's history from early humans to modern era, Dinosaur Museum with a unique collection of dinosaur fossils, Choijin Lama or State Oracle Residence-museum displaying best samples of Buddhist artwork and religious masks. Winter palace of Bogd Khan showcasing rare statues of Buddhist deities and items of personal use of this last theocratic ruler of Mongolia is also worth considering. An evening folk show of music, throat singing and contortion will be followed by a welcome dinner. (Dinner, hotel)

Day 2: Flight to North Mongolia, travel to Darkhad depression.

Morning transfer to UB airport for one and a half hour flight to Murun town, the access point to Khuvsgul, the county’s deepest lake that holds 1% of the world’s fresh water reserves. Upon arrival we drive to Darkhad depression, a land of prairie, forest and a couple of hundreds of lakes. But of course, most of it will be covered in deep snow. At this time of the year local herders will have moved in to their winter camps usually nestled in sheltered southern sides of mountains and hill. So a few times you may see white felt covered tents also known as the ger cuddled to large winter sheds for animals. Animals graze at large even in winter therefore you will see large herds of horses, sheep and yaks as we go. In the evening upon reach a small village we overnight in a local hotel or a family depending on availability of the former. (Breakfast, lunch, dinner / hotel or family stay)

Day 3: Travel to Tsaatan winter camp.

We travel for another half a day before arriving at Tsagaan Nuur town located in the depression’s northern corner. This is the gateway to taiga (boreal forest) where the Tsaatan community lives and herds reindeer. After lunch we continue for two more hours before arriving to Tsaatan winter camp grounds, home to about 20 Tsaatan households. Tonight you will be allocated a bed in one of the teepees. (Breakfast, lunch, dinner / teepee)

Days 4-5: In taiga observing Tsaatans’ life.

We spend 2 full days at the winter camp. You can visit teepees and get a first-hand knowledge of the Tsaatan life and traditions. Traditionally, domesticated reindeer have been the basis of Tsaatan economy. They are ridden, milked, eaten and their hides are used for covering teepees, making clothing and footwear. During winters reindeer roam at large the rugged mountains and dense forests that straddle the borderline between Russia and Mongolia. Just a few are kept through the winter for riding. You may take a reindeer ride or help in the daily chores of life in taiga but overall you should be prepared to observe from a side. Tsaatans practice shamanism where ancestors and natural features are held sacred, and serve as a source of strength or insight for individuals identified as shamans in the community. The Tsaatan rely on shamans for advice and healing, and for communicating with spirits, ancestors, or nature, which occurs through ritual and the calling of spirits, or ongots. With some luck you may witness such ritual. (Breakfast, lunch, dinner / teepee)

Day 6: Travel to Khuvsgul lake.

We today say good bye to Tsaatans and drive across the Darkhad depression from west to east. Around lunch time we cross the main pass that separates the depression from the lake Khuvsgul. It is the second-most voluminous freshwater lake in Asia, and holds almost 70% of Mongolia's fresh water and 1% of all the world’s fresh water reserves. Mongolians revere it as "The Mother Sea". From the top of the pass there opens a breath taking panorama of the frozen lake. We then continue along the lake’s shore at times driving on the lakes frozen surface and arrive to the lake’s southern end. Here we stay in traditional felt covered gers also known as yurts. Dinner and overnight. (Breakfast, lunch, dinner / ger)

Day 7: Return flight to Ulaanbaatar.

After breakfast transfer to Murun airport for flight to Ulaanbaatar. On arrival transfer to your hotel. The rest of the day is at your own disposal. In the evening we gather for a farewell dinner. (Breakfast, dinner, hotel)

Day 8: Departure transfer.

Transfer to airport for your return flight home. (Breakfast).

Notes:
Airfare is not included in the tour price.

Price Includes:
- All accommodation: hotel (2 nights), ger (1 night), hotel or family (1 night), teepee (3 nights)
- Indicated meals & drinking water
- All visits, sightseeing, national park and permit fees
- Overland transport (Japanese 4WD)
- Domestic airfare and airport transfers
- Airport transfers
- English speaking guide
- Expedition cook(s) from 4 participants

Price Excludes:
- Travel insurance
- Excess baggage fee on domestic air travel
- Personal riding clothes
- Sleeping bags
- Optional activity fees
- Meals not indicated
- Drinks & Alcohol
- Gratuities.